Apply - Re-Wiring the Mind

Four Scents Team

We can use the mind to develop healthier thought patterns


This isn’t as complex as it sounds! Our brains are constantly learning through new experiences every day, building thoughts and thought patterns. The more we get stuck or focus on a certain thought, the stronger it becomes and the more likely we are to default to it. The good news is, you don’t have to stay there! We can use the mind to reframe the thought pattern and develop healthier ones. This is known as neuroplasticity, and we can use this adaptability to our advantage.
     Illustration of man looking in recurring reflection to represent rumination vs reflection  

Rumination vs. Reflection

Rumination is when we focus on circumstances – usually focused on the past – and we get fixated on them, the thoughts going round in circles without a resolution. Reflection – taking time for silence and solitude to ponder and process – is proactive rather than reactive. This usually focuses on the present and the future, and instead of criticising yourself (as you would when ruminating), you become self-aware. In doing so, this helps you to move forward. Rumination only leads to stress, while rumination leads towards solutions.
A few pointers to switch moments of rumination for reflection:
  1. Recognise rumination when it happens. Are these thoughts keeping you stuck on a loop?
  2. Pause, and take a step back from the issue and look for other perspectives. Looking at alternative stories weaken rumination’s cycle.
  3. What elements of your character might be contributing to this? What can be changed and what can’t?
  4. Think of a small step you can take to move forward. If it’s doable in the present, even better.
  5. Speaking to someone you trust can help break the cycle and potentially offer perspective.

      Open hand with paper aeroplanes flying out of window to represent letting go

Letting Go

In a sense, this is very similar to accepting the small stuff that has taken over as something more urgent, pressing and serious. This is the overarching theme that now comes into play – letting go of the notion of control and surrendering to the larger forces at play. Anxiety alerts us to when we need to let go. This means to courageously and patiently see where our path will take us, rather than exhaust ourselves fighting to control a situation that we can’t.
Here is an example of how to reflect on the habit of control and letting go using a simplified version of Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Neurocycle technique:
  • Gather awareness – what warning signals are arising when you feel the need to control? How do you feel physically and emotionally? Is this affecting others?
  • Reflect – Take a step back and observe yourself from another standpoint. When does this tend to happen? Why do you feel the need for control? Are there triggers? How is it affecting your relationships? What effect is this having on you?
  • Write – this isn’t an essay, but it’s getting the answers to the above questions out of your head and onto paper. This can help see deeper into this pattern and gain insight.
  • Recheck – Look at what you’ve written. Think about what you can do instead. Can you trace the desire to control back to its origins?  How has the intensity of the emotion changed from the “gather” stage to now? This stage can help to discover themes, reactions and patterns. How can you reframe the situation?
  • Active reach – complete the 3 statements: “My trigger is…” “My reconceptualised information is…” “My reconceptualised feelings are…”  This can now be worded into a simple statement:
  • “When I start to feel (e.g. a tightness in my chest from wanting to control a situation), I will tell myself (e.g. this isn’t an emergency) and choose to feel (e.g. calmer by taking a few deep breaths)”

This 10-minute exercise can be repeated to form a new pathway in the brain and eventually override the default reactions. It takes around 63 days to form a new habit; the persistence and patience are well worth the results.

     Man behind computer looking out of window to represent taking a brain break

A Daily Mind Management Routine

Applying a routine can be so beneficial in the work of countering unhelpful anxiety and stress. Again, this is an example of what this could potentially look like, based on optimising mind, brain and body function:
  1. The 1st 30 seconds of the day set us up! Capture what you’re thinking and choose a realistic statement to get on the right footing. An example could be: “I will watch my expectations for today.”
  2. Brain-building for 15 minutes or so – deliberate and intentional thinking by reading, listening to podcasts or watching educational videos. This can build your mental bandwidth and open your mind to other viewpoints.
  3. Using reflection or the 10-minute Neurocycle method to work on habit (e.g. perfectionism; people-pleasing) or trauma detoxing.
  4. Having a “brain break” for 5 seconds to 1 minute every hour to counter fatigue. Getting morning sunshine for one of these can enhance positive effects.
  5. Using intention or the Active Reach step to reframe whatever habit you’re working on overcoming a few times during the day (setting a reminder helps).
  6. Eating good food mindfully, rather than rushed and on autopilot.
  7. Getting some movement in.
  8. A healthy wind-down routine; reflecting on the day, dimming lights, creating a cool, dark atmosphere to sleep in.


We recognise that everybody’s circumstances look different, so this can be tailored to work best for you.

References: Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess by Dr. Caroline Leaf, The Anatomy of Anxiety by Dr. Ellen Vora, The Powerful Purpose of Introverts by Holley Gerth


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